What’s under your tree this year?

Think of how others are spending their days, nights, years and lifetimes.

Everyone’s heart is filled with joy, scurrying to stores, pondering what the best gift will be for his or her companion, and what are the perfect holiday decorations. While you choose suitable wrapping paper, contemplate the routines of those less privileged. Wonder what they might be doing on Christmas Day.

A young Somali refugee is a victim of the power struggle between the United States and Russia. Living with minimal survival tools and wondering where her father is, she shares tragic stories with a friend who watched both parents get shot. Here, other Somalis are trying to transition from refugee camps to one of the most civilized countries in the world.

Adam, a Palestinian boy, is on his way to school. His daily trips take hours instead of minutes. According to the Washington Post, there are 659 checkpoints, roadblocks, trenches and earthen walls in the West Bank. Israeli settlers have twice attacked the Christian Peacemaker Team as they accompanied children to school. The Gaza Community Mental Health Program has noted children are plagued by serious psychological ills caused by the stress of military occupation.

An innocent Israeli child is destined to fulfill his or her parent’s dream. This child will grow to believe the only relationship with a Palestinian is enmity and that the only good Arab is a dead Arab.

Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has almost doubled since the invasion, according to the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government. Iraq’s child malnutrition rate now roughly equals Burundi’s, a central African nation torn by more than a decade of war, and is easily tops skyrocketing rates in Uganda and Haiti.

We are citizens of one of the most advanced and civilized countries in age. If anyone can make a difference, we can. Does it make sense to use our energy in trivialities when we have opportunities to change the world?

When opening gifts, think of how others spend their days, nights, years and lifetimes. A gift given to you year-round is a gift that many do not have. It is the opportunity to make a difference; to change at least one life dramatically; to start a chain of informants who will understand what is going on outside our bubble and educate others – because we are Americans and we care.

Efdal Elferri is a writer for Al-Madinah Cultural Center and an electrical engineering graduate student. Please send comments to [email protected]